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Singer Tokiko Kato on Monday was appointed as the first Japanese goodwill ambassador to the United Nations Environment Program.

Singer Tokiko Kato is congraturated by Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori on Monday.

A veteran singer known for such blockbuster hits as “Shiretoko Ryojo” (“Weary Heart’s Journey Around Shiretoko Peninsula”), Kato will follow the likes of Olivia Newton-John, who also served as goodwill ambassador.

She received her letter of appointment Monday.

Kato has been a board member of the environmental group World Wide Fund for Nature Japan since 1997 and has shown great interest in environmental issues.

Kato said she plans to travel to Indonesia, Thailand or Cambodia next spring to observe nongovernmental organizations working to protect the environment.

“I want to travel to various places, meet people who are having troubles and convey what I hear to Japan,” Kato said.

Domestically, Kato said she is concerned about the effect that an airport scheduled to be built on Ishigaki Island in Okinawa Prefecture would have on the surrounding coral reef, and she noted that public works projects around the nation need to reviewed.

“The plan to build an airport on top of the coral reef off (the village of) Shiraho on Ishigaki Island has been canceled, but next spring they will begin construction of the airport on land instead,” Kato said. “I am very worried about that.”

Environment Agency chief Yoriko Kawaguchi and UNEP Executive Director Klaus Topfer agreed in September on having a Japanese fill the post.

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